The legend and the rediscovery of the pearl

The earlyest writings about the pearl orginate from China, India, and Ceylon prior to the widely practiced peartl-cult of the Romans. According to an ancient Hindu book dated 1000 B.C., the Rigveda mentions "Krishna bringing up pearls for his daughter's weddig deep from the ocean." The Romans historian Linius Secundus considered pearls the most valuable gifts during the first Century B.C. . To amuse Antonius, Cleopatra proved her huge wealth by dissolving an invaluable pearl in a glass of vinegar, and then, by drinking the slolution.

The cult of the pearl is thousands of years old and the tradition of this cult is very much alive today, at the treshold of the 21st century. 1996 is considered the year of the pearl's return to the world of fashion. This spectacular figt of nature becomes the focus of the media while women suddenly find an irresistible value in its charm. As of today, the pearl's growing popularity contnues to be unbroken thanks to its spectacular, mystical and emotional qualities.

The pears's magical influence upon women can be best appreciated in Adler's quote:
"In its depth is the magical powr as the human eye is unable to rest upon it's surface. Consider is warning! Like the warm and dark torpical ocean of the night, the Tahitian pearl irresistibly draws you into is self"

There are several types of the " true" cultured pearl

Even today, pearls grow without human intervention but only one in about every twenty-thousandth shell. Like a precious "stone" of the aquatic medium, pearl can grow in fresh or salt water oystes.
Growing cultured pears in fresh water dates back into antiquity. 95% of the world's pearl supply is grown in the fresh water pearl-farms of Japan, USA and of China.
There are about 70 species of shells capable of growing pearls in sea or salt water. Most of these belong to the Pinctada species. Some shell ar valuable and sought for their outer shell while others are sought for the pearl that can be found inside of them.

Two groups of shell belong to the latter types:
- the Pinctada Martensii or Fucata shellfish that are indigenous to the waters of Japan, China and Korea-teh Akoya pearls grow in these
- The Pinctada Maxima and the Margaritifera belong to the second gorup of shellfish, and they are indigenous to the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Mikimoto developed the technology for growing cultured pearls by using the Pinctada Martensii shellfish. The future of the Akoya pearl from Japan is gradually overshadowed by concerns of environmental pollution and the growing production of an increasingly better quality and more attractive sweet-water pearl form China. It takes after the Japanese Akoya but the substantially less expensive Chinese pearl often misleads the specialist and has a competitive edge on the market.

The pearls of the South Seas

Among the giant shells of the Pinctada family grows a pearl which is justly and respectfully called "queen of all pearls." The giant Pinctada Maxima lives in waters 20-100 meters deep and is indigenous to the shores Thailand, Indonesia, th Philipoines, Papua New Guinea and Horthern Australia. On the other hand, the Pinctada Margaritifera is indigenous to the coral reefs found in the turquoise water of French Polynesia. These Types of pearls are of considerable sizes and they are breathtakingly beautiful with their forever changing shades of colors. Because of their thick layers they are most durable but they can only be found in limited numbers. For these reasons, they are sought after by prestigious jewelers and by customers with high standards and better than average tastes.
Most of the pearls that grow in the shells of the silever and gold necked Pinctada Maximaare, are produded on the farms of the Australian, Indonesian and Philippines Islands. Their harvest exceeds 7 tons annually. The black-lipped Pinctada Margaritifer shellfish is indigenous to the pearl farms of the French-Polynesian Tuamotu islands; the harvest of the special pearl that grows in these shells is around 6 tons annuallywhereas the first-class output does not exceed more than 60 kilograms. It takes several millions of dollars to start and maintain an average size pearl farm. Before the first harvest of the pearls, there is a waiting period of 5-6 years duing which dangers like pollution, viruses, hurricanes and cyclones can cause severe damage or even a fatal blow to the shells.

Growing the Tahitian pearl

The implantation process necessary for growing or producing pearls is usullay done by Japanese masters. Taking the epitherlial tissue form another shell, cutting it into 3x3 mm pieces, teh master places the cut tissue tohether with a special nucleus. The nucleus is derived from the shell of the Pig-foot-toe oyster. If the implantation is successful, the shellfish will build or grow onto the nucleus layers composed of calcium-carbonate (aaragonite), organic proteins and other minerals derived from the sea water. The more layers, the mor beautiful th inner glitter and higher the value of the pearl.
Usually the shellfish will expel more than half of the fertilized nucleus whose maturing and birth will take place on the cut-tissue pieces. This will result in the formation of "keshi," a small, shapeless pearl. It isn't very Valuable but because of its unusual form, jeweler-designer find it interesting to work with.
In the case of the "half-pearl" or "mabé,"the nucleus isplaced under teh cut-tissue onto the wall of the shellfish where the usual maturing will occur. After the period of maturing, the "mabét" is cut-out form the wall of the shell, placed on a piece of shell of similar shade. After grinding and polishing it, the goldsmith builds it into a setting.

What determines the value of the pearl?

First and foremost supply and demand! At the present, salt-water pearls are the most expensive, especially the South Sea Pearls like the Pinctada Maxima and the Margaritifera.
In the case of the Pinctada Maxima, pearls wiht pink shades are more valuable. The demand for and the interest in a certain color of th Tahitian Pinctada Margaritifera pearl is constantly changing. At Sotheby's auctions the gray and black shades pearls were in the greatest demand for many years. Begining a few years back, however, there has been a gerater interest in the pearls wiht green shades.

Objective factors in evaluation

Depending upon its diameter, the value of the pearl exponentially grows; the price of a first class pearl of 14 millimeters in diameter can reach mor than $7,000.

Surface brightness
The reflection of the light form the surface of the pearl can also be determining factor; the geater the reflection, the greater the value of the pearl.

Surface flaws
A pearl can be classified first class with a lfawless surface or a maxomum of 1 or 2 visible flaws on less than 10% of the surface. As the number of surface unevenness, craters, dips or runs increases, the value of the pearl decreases

The perfect spherical, ball shaped pearl is the most valuable. In addition, there are the half spherical, the button, the pear, the drop, the rib-shaped and the so called baroque forms. Very popular ar the rib-shaped (or circular) pearls and they are usually used in the making of pendants.

We wear pearls because they are beautiful and they enhance our looks and attractiveness. However, in order to enjoy their aesthetic value, we have to take care of them in certain proper way. Since pearls contain water and proteins they should not be stored in dry and sunny places; they could dry out and crack. Pearls are especially sensitive to chemicals and acids because of the aragonite crystals they contain, consequently, they should be rinsed in salt water and wiped with a soft cloth. Pearls should not be stoered with other jewelry because they could be easily scratched. Perfume, hair or nail lacquer and other acid or alkaline liquids should never be in contact with the pearl. In order to make sure the settings of your pearl is firm and the string of your pearls is not weakened or worn, On yearly bases, you should have your jeweler examine your pearl ornaments in order to make sure the settings of your pearl is firm or the string threading of your pearls is not weakened or worn.

Bielek Elemér